Tips from What I'm Reading - The 50,000-ft. View

First, check out Lydia Kang's a-ha! moment as part of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog chain :) Missed last week's? Then mosey over to Laura Diamond's blog to see her response.

Now. I just finished Douglas Clegg's NEVERLAND. Oh boy. Wow. Resonant. Atmospheric as hell.

 Ain't heard of no Gull Island in Georgia? Turns out, you don't hafta, on account of Clegg's evocative-as-hell writing. Not only will you have visited it thoroughly when you're done reading, you'll know that damned island as if it were you and not Beau who summered there.

It's loaded with sentences like this: He had mood swings the way Uncle Ralph had cans of beer: one after the other, no matter the time of day.

And this: I remember summers on Gull Island as being all begrudging mornings and afternoons that went on forever like a school day: hot and sticky and smelling like a stagnant pond. Ooh, lovely, right?

But the one that struck me was a plain one. This: The rest of the island was in a state of panic.

As readers, we're buzzing around Gull Island with the main character, 10-year-old Beau, in scenes like that from which the above line was taken. As Beau moves through this particular scene, he's overwhelmed by an onslaught of sensations - slashing rain, igniting trees, relatives squabbling, family secrets popping open like gas-bloated corpses - which place us squarely within his experience. And it's awesome.

But while we're being shelled by Beau's sensory bombs, Clegg also rears back to give us the 50,000-ft. view of the scene - to show what's going on around it, and away from it.
Yeah, it was a minor lightbulb moment for me, so? I tend to come late to obvious things. Sue me.

It just reminded me to pull back--pull back whydoncha--and do a flyover of the terrain of a scene as I wade through it. See, I tend to go deep POV when I'm writing. And while it allows for some great immediacy, it also presents some serious tunnel vision.

So, thanks NEVERLAND for reminding me to pull back--pull back whydoncha--every so often to see the 50,000-ft view of the scene's terrain. Mind, I'm not talking about the plot line or the book as a whole (we all need to back up so's we can see that whole thing). I'm talking about pulling back to see the larger whole of the scene's environs.

Next time you're writing, say, a scene in a house, pull back and think about what's going on outside. Out on the highway. Upstairs in the attic. Out in the side yard. What's going on with that truck parked down the hill. The hissed argument between the girls on the swing. You don't have to include all of this, but still think about it. Consider what's going on while your character is moving inside the house.

Not only does it give some good context, but taking a look at the larger environs of a scene might also offer up some additional story seeds that can germinate in later chapters.


Giles | May 12, 2010 at 12:21 PM

Wow! That's something I wouldn't have thought about without someone wording it like that! This is why I read other people's blogs :) I learn what to look for in my own writing.

Lydia Kang | May 12, 2010 at 12:28 PM

Excellent advice. I need to remember this! And I love those quotes, well done!

Anonymous | May 12, 2010 at 12:28 PM

Love this idea--got to practice looking at the long range view!!!! Thanks! :D

Palindrome | May 12, 2010 at 1:44 PM

I'm giving away a copy of Neverland for my blog contest! And...I may have an interview to post from that author. And by may have, I mean do! I'm so excited!! He's a sweetheart.

Roland D. Yeomans | May 12, 2010 at 2:26 PM

I was introduced to so much by visiting your lovely blog.

He had mood swings the way Uncle Ralph had cans of beer: one after the other, no matter the time of day.

I smiled wide at that line. Great, colorful writing by Douglas Clegg. And I have you to thank for discovering him.

If you have the time and the inclination, come check out my entry in the Internal Conflict Blogfest. The link to it is on my blog, WRITING IN THE CROSSHAIRS. I'd really like to read an entry you would post for it. Roland

Indigo | May 12, 2010 at 5:02 PM

Great advice. I'll have to check over my latest pages to see how linear I may have been. (Hugs)Indigo

Theresa Milstein | May 12, 2010 at 5:44 PM

That mood swings beer line is great. I love hearing about books I don't know about.

Carolyn V. | May 12, 2010 at 6:25 PM

Oh, great advice, thanks Zoe!

Jaydee Morgan | May 12, 2010 at 7:51 PM

I'm going to have to remember to apply this - it's awesome advice! Thanks :)

Tara | May 13, 2010 at 9:42 AM

I have the same issue with going so deep into pov that I get tunnel vision. Really great advice!

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